|| The body of St. Francis Xavier lies in a silver casket in
the Church of Bom Jesus, in Goa. Ceremonies to honor his death are performed on
December3, the day he was buried.
St Xavier was a great Catholic missionary, who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ
to the people of Asia. Born in Spain on April 7, 1506, he came to India with the
Portuguese viceroy of Goa in 1543, and immediately undertook the task of influencing
the Goan people. He went from street to street, with a hired town crier, asking
people to attend his meetings and listen to his sermons. Though he did not master
the local language, he translated the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments,
and the Ave Maria, with the help of Goan scholars.
|He made the people repeat these after him, word
for word, and met with great success in the fishing colonies. He baptized the
inhabitants of 30 villages. Xavier commanded awe some political power. He was
able to secure pensions, even for the petty princes who converted to Christianity,
from the king of Portugal. To spread the message of Christ, he sailed to the Spice
Islands in 1545, and then went on to Japan in 1549 for a year. His greatest success
is recorded in Japan, where he converted hundreds to Christianity. After returning
to India for a brief 15 months, he proceeded to China, against the wishes of the
Portuguese viceroy. It was in the Sancian Island, about 10 km from the mainland
of China that he died of fever on December 2, 1552.
|According to a legend, some Portuguese merchants found him
just before he breathed his last. They performed his last rites on the following
day, and buried him in a box partly filled with unslacked lime. A few months later,
a Jesuit brother disinterred the body and discovered to his surprise that it had
not decomposed all. He cut a finger from the body and was astonished to see blood
ooze out. When this was reported to the Vatican, the title of saint was conferred
The body was interred in a cemetery in Malacca for about two years before it was
brought to its final resting place in Goa. Though not anointed, it was found to
be only slightly affected by death, until then. Before the mortal remains of the
saint were placed in a silver casket in the Church of Bom Jesus, one hand was
cut off from the body. Pieces of the hand were distributed to various parts of
the world, under orders of the Pope.
|Every 10 years on the anniversary of his death,
his body was brought out and kept in a glass case, with the feet exposed, for
all to see and worship. For the exposition, people from all over India flocked
to the church for a glimpse of the saint. The queues were long as men, women and
children, belonging to all castes and creeds, stood in hushed silence to get into
the church. Some waited for upto two days, before their turn came to go around
the body. The devotees kissed the feet of the saint from outside the glass case,
seeking his blessings. The saint is said to have had miraculous powers of healing,
so many believers who wanted relief from suffering took wax models of the part
of their body that was diseased or in pain. They offered it to the saint, and
then lit a candle. The sacrament was given to devotees from all faiths. The last
exposition was held in 1994. Since the condition of the body had deteriorated
visibly, it was decided by the church not to display the body any more.
There are many stalls selling trinkets and souvenirs in the fair that is held
on the occasion. A wide variety of food and drinks are available. It is a pilgrimage,
which turns into a picnic for quite a few families, as they shop in the little
lanes decorated with streamers. The atmosphere is happy and festive.